Making Changes: Motivated by Fear
Many of us are trying to make changes in our lives. There are many approaches to making changes, and different ones work for different people. Consequently, any approach you take to making changes needs to reflect this, giving you the best chance for success. Understandably, we tend to focus on positive means of change, forgetting how much we are motivated by fear – and that this motivation can produce positive results.
The bright future
For instance, some people are drawn towards a bright future. If you're this sort of person, when you can see something as being interesting and attractive, it motivates you. This vision of the future pulls you forward and it's by keeping this in mind that you can achieve the things you want to achieve.
It's exciting and optimistic.
The force of necessity
For other people, necessity and changing circumstances drive their need for change. If you're this sort of person, you might realise the things that you've been doing up until now won't really work in the future. So you make changes to do things a bit differently in the hope of getting better outcomes.
This is pragmatic and functional
Taken together, both of these methods – being drawn towards a brighter future and necessity – are both incentives. By incentive, I mean they are both forms of carrot that draw us forward. In today's world, we often focus on incentives to make changes as we can be strongly motivated by the promise of better outcomes. However in doing this, we ignore a very strong motivation to change.
Focusing on fear
This is because in focusing on the carrot, we're ignoring the stick. Although we don't much like to acknowledge it, fear drives a lot of effective change.
It's fear of a second heart attack that can motivate men to change their diet and exercise patterns.
It's fear of failing that can make students knuckle down.
It's fear of losing a relationship that can make people stop their addictions.
It's fear of being poor that can make people change their spending habits.
Motivated by fear
Unfortunately, when we talk about being motivated by fear we usually assume that this is going to bring out our worst impulses. We associate it with selfishness, mean-spiritedness, racism and greed. And certainly, fear can take us in those directions. However, fear can be be harnessed and used in our service. In this way it can served us, but also serve the greater good. fear can cause us to protect others, to seek environmental action or to lock the door when we leave the house. Fear can work for us.
Our better nature
Obviously, it's not ideal to be driven by fear. Ideally, we'd all like to live a life that was free of fear, where we were driven by our best impulses and higher aspirations. This is exactly why this approach is so effective. If we re trying to make changes, we need to acknowledge the powerful effect that fear can have on making these changes. Knowing this, it might be possible to even harness fear in order to make changes. Whilst it's far from ideal, there are some changes which are too important to leave to more optimistic and uncertain methods.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
Now, read about how to stay at it when things are going well.